Since the onset of the pandemic, the vast majority of therapy has taken place online, and it’s likely to remain in high demand far beyond the current crisis. Online therapy appears to be quite popular among both therapists and their clients alike, and it is repeatedly found to be just as effective as in-person therapy.
Building trust from the outset of the therapeutic relationship is an essential component of psychotherapy; clients are more likely to benefit from therapy when they believe their therapist to be competent, empathic, and reliable.
Here are 3 considerations for building trust in online therapy:
1. Be professional
An important element of building trust with a client is exhibiting competence and professionalism. From the comfort of your home, you may feel more relaxed and thus dress and behave more casually. Keep in mind that it will be more difficult to convey your competence to a client if they perceive your appearance or your surroundings to be unkempt.
Also, consider the lighting. Bright, natural light conveys professionalism on-screen, so position yourself facing a window whenever possible. Keep the camera still – situate your device on a desk or table instead of holding it in your hand – and sit close enough to the camera that your client can see your face well.
2. Make it clear that you’re listening
When you’re in the same room with your client, it’s easier for them to feel certain that your full attention is on them. They can see your whole body and the objects surrounding you, and they can read your body language and eye contact to see that you’re engaged.
On-screen, this is a bit more challenging. Your client might wonder what has your attention when you glance away from the screen. Are you distracted by a notification? Are you worrying about that pile of bills on your desk? Are you checking your hair in the image of yourself? To build trust, it’s especially important in online therapy to make it clear to your client that they don’t have to fight for your attention. For example, if you prefer to jot down notes during a session, it will be helpful to inform your client that you’re taking notes so they don’t misunderstand your lack of eye contact as disinterest.
Help yourself to not get distracted by turning off notifications on all your devices while you’re in session. Move anything off your desk that might distract you. And do your best to keep your eyes on your client. Maximize the video window on your screen so you can’t see anything else. It may help to also minimize the window of your own image so you’re not distracted by how you look.
It’s very important that you’re not interrupted or called upon during a session. Communicate with others in your household the importance of giving you privacy and not interrupting you when you’re in session.
Repeating your clients’ key phrases to describe their experiences might be especially crucial for exuding empathy in online therapy. Because there is a brief sound delay, however minuscule it may be, your client may subconsciously perceive any delay on your end as hesitation. Making sure to repeat your client’s statements and reflect what you’re hearing them say reassures them that you hear them and you understand them.
3. Be reliable
Just as is true for in-person therapy, therapists can build trust with their online clients by behaving dependably. Start every session on time. Be careful not to unexpectedly cancel appointments when it’s avoidable. Do everything in your power to make sure you have a strong internet connection and have a backup plan in case you get disconnected.
Your Dream Online Practice Starts Here
Online therapy is booming in popularity for the many conveniences it offers. Therapists enjoy the flexibility of working from anywhere as well as access to a large pool of potential clients.
Great Lakes Psychology Group makes it easy for therapists to build the online practice of their dreams. We offer access to a secure and easy-to-use HIPAA-compliant video platform as well as full-service insurance verification and claim submission services.
GLPG therapists choose whether they’d prefer to run an exclusively online practice or simply include online therapy as a component of their in-person practice. Your practice, your choice.
Click here to learn more about careers at GLPG.